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Texas Caviar

1 Feb

Note: Hi ya’ll, this is Mary. But this is Alayna’s post below. We put this post in now because we thought it would be a delicious appetizer for the great summit of the pig skins, AKA the Super Bowl. You know what we say, Who wants wings when you can have pinto beans? Enjoy ladles.

Texas Caviar is one of those things that my mom makes that is just SO DELICIOUS but I usually don’t think about. But it’s so good! And easy! And I had a few people over for a barbecue (see Mary, this is one of the pluses of DC… I have a yard! With a grill!) the other week and clearly had to make it. And, no surprise, everyone loved. In fact, everyone loved it this much:

(Mary says: Doesn’t that picture look nice? It reminds me of another time long, long ago. When there wasn’t snow. It’s hard to remember life without snow.)

That’s right. Throwing leaves in the air excited. You should try it.

Texas Caviar

  • Drain one can each sweet corn, pinto beans, and kidney beans and combine in a bowl with half a chopped red onion, a handful of chopped parsley, 2-3 chopped tomatoes and about one cup of italian dressing. Mix well and let sit.
  • Serve with tortilla chips.

Sprouted Mung Bean Salad

14 Jul

This has never happened before (AKA posting on a Wed.) but I made something last night that I was so excited about I had to share. This also might have been the first time I had a weird impulse grain buy and actually used those impulse grains effectively.  I’m proud.

Meet the Sprouted Mung Bean. These are super healthy for you, a lot of protein and low in calories and all that. They are also really satisfying to eat. This is a delicious cold summer salad or warm summer stew, depending on your mood. It’s really easy to make. And like, I said, I made it up. I’m really proud of myself.

Sprouted Mung Bean Salad

  • Boil 3 cups of vegetable stock
  • Add 1 cup “Sprouted Mung Beans” to boiling stock and let boil for 5 minutes
  • Turn off heat, cover and leave for 2 minutes
  • In a separate sauce pan simmer 1 onion (red or white) in 1 or so tbsp of olive oil and 1 tsp of cayenne pepper for 10 or 15 minutes
  • Pour the pot of Mung Beans, with stock, into the onions
  • Add 1 or 2 cups of freshly shelled peas (preferably)
  • Add 1 ear of corn kernels
  • Add 1 tsp of thyme
  • Let all this simmer for a couple minutes. Add a squeeze of lime and pepper to taste.
  • Enjoy because it’s the BEST!

Almost Summer Soup (Porcini and zucchini soup with walnut basil pesto)

7 Apr

So, we’re having a warm snap in New York right now and I LOVE it. Windows open, sandals on and air drying my hair instead of bundling up on the way to work (and having SUNSHINE when you leave for work instead of freezing cold darkness and/or snow and rain) is pretty amazing.

We’re a day late because Mary had to catch up on work after her vacation, but don’t worry, this soup is worth it. It’s vegan, but surprisingly filling. Sounds complex, but is really simple to make. And it straddles that line between a hot day and a cooler night quite well. It’s also delicious and I made up the recipe, so I’m feeling super proud. SO:

Almost Summer Soup (Porcini and zucchini soup with walnut basil pesto)

  • THE SET-UP (things to do while you’re doing other things)

  • Chop up 3 red potatoes and bring to a boil in a separate pot until you can stick a fork in them easily, but they aren’t too soft

  • Throw about half a cup to a cup of walnuts onto a cookie tray and put in the oven at 250 for 5-10 minutes until toasted, then set aside to cool

  • microwave about 4 cups of water for about 5 minutes and put in an ounce of dried porcini mushrooms to soak, re-heating as necessary


  • Chop about 5 cloves of garlic and sauté in olive oil with a sprig of fresh rosemary and a few sprigs of fresh thyme

  • Add half a white onion and the white and light green parts of three leeks, chopped and cook covered to reserve liquid

  • Once fragrant, add two zucchinis, chopped and cook covered

  • When the zucchinis are starting to cook, add 4 portabella mushroom caps, chopped and cook covered, stirring occasionally

  • PESTO BREAK! Now you have time to make the pesto! Take a big bunch of basil, take out any bad leaves, and rinse thoroughly. In a food processor, layer in the basil first, then add some walnuts, then parmesan cheese and 2 cloves of garlic with a generous amount of olive oil. You may have to do in batches as things get copped up and move down. Adjust flavoring to your taste (I love garlic) and put in the fridge for later.

  • By now your veggies should be cooked through, so add your potatoes (drained) and your porcini juice (with the mushrooms strained out and squeezed for juicy flavor)

  • Blend (taking out your rosemary and thyme stems) and serve with a dollop of pesto in the middle.

  • YUM!

Appetizer Party

9 Feb

Appetizers. They’re delicious. Everyone loves them. Plus it seems like you can go a little more crazy with trying to make an exciting appetizer because it’s not the same sort of commitment as a whole meal, or entree. Having a whole party surrounded by appetizers (and cake) is a great idea to shake up boring February. We recommend. Invite your friends to bring their favorite appetizer dish, and if they don’t have any ideas what to bring, scroll down.


  • melt about 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan with one bay leaf and one sprig of fresh rosemary
  • add 3/4 pound of chicken liver and cook (stirring occasionally) for about two minutes, then add a splash of whiskey (about a shots worth)
  • cook a few more minutes until still pink in the middle, but not bloody… this should take a total of less than five minutes
  • let cool for a few minutes, then put liver and juices into the food processor with some salt and pepper and blend until smooth
  • scrape into a dish, cover with seran wrap and let cool for a few hours until solid
  • enjoy!

Walnut Jam Cake

  • toast 1 1/4 cups of walnuts in the oven for 5-10 minutes at 350
  • butter and flour two 8 inch cake pans
  • once they are cooled, crush your walnuts in the food processor with about 2/3 cup of sugar and transfer to a mixing bowl
  • add 1 stick of butter, cut into pieces, and beat thoroughly
  • then add 4 large eggs, beating again
  • last but not least, mix 1/2 cup flour with 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, a few shakes of salt and some allspice in a separate bowl, then beat into the mix
  • pour into your buttered pans
  • cook for about 30 minutes at 350, checking to see if a toothpick comes out of the center clean
  • cool for about 20 minutes in the pan, then flip out of the pans to cool the rest of the way
  • once cool, decide which half will be your bottom, and spread a thick layer of jam (I used a blackberry/blueberry chunky one) on top
  • top with the other cake, and serve with a dollop of whipped cream* on top

* to make whipped cream: whisk a small carton of heavy cream until stiff (you can make a ravine with your finger and it stays), add about 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla and whisk in… done!

Roasted Pears with Goat Cheese

  • peel, halve and core about 4 pears (any kind)
  • mix the juice from half a lemon with about a teaspoon of vanilla and in a separate bowl, about 1/3 a cup of sugar with a few shakes of ginger and allspice
  • drizzle the lemon mixture onto your pears first, then sprinkle with the sugar mixture, finishing the lemons by dotting each one with a small tab of butter
  • roast at 375 for about 45 minutes, flipping halfway through and occasionally basting with the juices
  • Serve warm with the cup filled with goat cheese

Clementine Cake

  • cover about 6-7 small, thin-skinned clementines with water and bring to a boil, then down to a simmer, cooking for about an hour (longer for thicker skinned fruit) until very soft. Take out of the water, and once cool, de-seed and then mush them in your food processor, skins and all
  • butter and line an 9inch cake pan (I used a square one) with parchment paper, cutting to fit
  • in your food processor (or by hand), grind about 2 cups of almonds, and mix them in with 1 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • beat 6 eggs in your mixing bowl, and add in dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly, followed by the clementine pulp
  • Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes, checking to see that a toothpick comes out clean from the center

Vegan Ethiopian Magic Meal

20 Jan
Diners of the week!

Friday dinner’s is BACK with a vengeance! I am finally done with my grad school applications and realized that, you know, I have friends. So this weekend I invited over some people I know from Amigos de las Americas, a volunteer organization I’ve been working with for about a decade. They’re all wonderful adventurers with great stories, and, more importantly tend to like things like ‘nature’ and ‘vegetarianism’.

Now, because AMIGOS vegetarians have a lot of experience eating in other people’s houses in North, Central and South America while working on development projects (and usually those other people don’t have a ton of extra food to go around) I think they are a little different from other vegetarians because they’ll eat pretty much whatever you put in front of them. That said, when someone says they are “veggie with vegan leanings”, I take them seriously.

And so I present…. a totally vegan Ethiopian feast. Most entertaining part? You lay the ingera (traditional Ethiopian flatbread) on your plate and ladle your stew onto it, then use another piece as a spoon/fork. No silverware needed! I will say, I wasn’t going to make ingera at all because it looked too hard/time-consuming until my wonderful co-worker Jolie suggested just buying some from my local Ethiopian restaurant…. brilliant girl, that Jolie. And I’m pretty sure my hand-purchased bread tasted a lot better than my hand-made would have.

So without further ado, the stews that celebrated international soup day!

Also, these portions could have served eight people.

Green Lentil Stew

• Rinse about 2 cups of lentils then place in a large saucepan with 2 cups of water, 1 large white onion chopped, 6 chopped cloves of garlic, and some generous shakes of red chile. Also add teaspoon, nutmeg, cardamom salt and pepper
• Bring to bubbling, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes, until lentils and soft and onions have more or less disintegrated. Stir periodically and add more water if needed.
• Add in a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (or red wine, which is what you’re actually supposed to do and cook for 10 more minutes… add more salt and pepper if needed
• …. keep it cooking for another hour or so if you want, but on a simmer. It will make the lentils nice and soft, and you won’t have to think about them!

Sweet Potato Stew

• Heat some olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté one large chopped onion, 6 pieces of chopped garlic, and about two inches of chopped ginger for 10 minutes, until onion is a nice golden color.
• Add 3-4 chopped sweet potatoes and one roughly red pepper and sauté for 1 min.
• Add a mix of paprika, allspice, cinnamon, coriander, and some ground fenugreek and fry for 1 minute. Don’t worry about things sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add 1.5 cups of water to deglaze the pan, then add 2 tomatoes, half a cup of lentils, and two big handfuls of chopped green beans. Mix well.
• Bring to bubbling, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for at least 30 minutes, until lentils and potatoes are soft. Stir occasionally. It is even better of you can let it cook on a low heat for an hour or two. Add more water if stew gets too thick.
• Stir in a handful of parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper

Eggplant Stew

• Heat a large non-stick pan (cast iron preferred) over medium heat. Add in 3 smallish red onions (chopped) onions and fry for 30 minutes, stirring regularly, until a nice golden brown. When onions stick too much, deglaze the pan with a splash or two of water.
• Add in 3 chopped cloves of garlic, about an inch of chopped ginger, and a mixture of allspice, pepper, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, paprika, and chile powder (also known as a bastardized version of berbere, which is a real Ethiopian thing) and mix well, until spices are fragrant.
• Add in ¼ cup of margarine. When it melts, add one large carrot (diced) and one large eggplant (thinly sliced). Fry for 5-7 minutes, until eggplant begins to soften.
• Add two tomatoes, about 1.5 cups of water, and two handfuls of chopped green beans and mix well. Bring to bubbling, then loosely cover and let simmer. The lentils will cook in 20 to 30 minutes, but you can cook longer. Salt and pepper to taste.

Happy dining (and soup day!) friends!

French Lentil & Baba Ganooooooooush

29 Sep

As the lentils simmered Alayna used plumber’s clay to fix her vase and I highlighted special lines in Jack London’s biography I had earmarked not having a pen at the time. The soup smelled wonderful. Zizi couldn’t stop waiting for shadows to move on the wall.

It smells like autumn now. This is good. I’m wearing two sweaters right now. Which is excessive but the room is chilly.

While the soup simmered Alayna and I went through her craft box. Thick oils and sandpaper, somewhere. I paged through her sketchbook from France. A drawing I did from a rooftop in Fez drinking mint tea. A picture of the corner of my apartment over the art gallery. And a lot of hollowy trees. A letter never sent to a boy. Van Gogh’s bedroom. I miss textures.

We started eating the baba ganoush before the soup was ready and it was wonderful. We drank ginger tea from the elephant mugs before that. I walked home 30 blocks and the sky was purple and blotted with clouds and it felt spooky like Halloween. I howled when I tripped over a rat running across the street.

This soup tastes like France and a little bit of fall. It’s good.

Lentil Soup
(adapted from Mojdeh’s mother, who took it from Martha, as in Stewart, that originally had elusive french lentils and escarole, neither of which we could find)
  • finely chop about four cloves of garlic and saute in olive oil
  • add a medium sized white onion, also chopped, and cook until almost translucent
  • add 3-4 medium sized carrots in bite sized pieces and cook covered for about five minutes
  • add 1.5 cups of lentils (green or french) and 3/4 cup of yellow split peas (or stub lentils for all… we were just going for color and then they all looked the same, but tasted delicious)
  • Add one large can of diced tomatoes and fill the pot with vegetable or chicken broth, adding 2-3 bay leaves and several sprigs of fresh thyme
  • bring to a simmer and cook covered for 40 min (to test, make sure the lentils aren’t crunch in the middle)
  • turn the heat off the pot and stir in one bag of arugula, letting it wilt in
  • Serve!!!

Baba Ganooooush!

  • cut an eggplant in half lengthwise, stab it with a fork a few times, and bake is at 400 for about 45 minutes (when you cut it open and it’s all mushy and brown instead of white, it’s done)

  • let cool, then scrape insides of eggplant into a food processor, discarding skin.
  • add the juice from half a lemon, about a spoonful of tahini (make sure you stir it well before adding so it’s not all clumpy), 2 cloves of garlic and some salt and blend until smooth
  • Serve!!!

Ceviche & Elephant mugs et al.

3 Sep

Oh, we know we know we know… we haven’t given you a Friday dinner in forever, and now that we are, it’s a cheat, because it’s easier to make on Saturday (ceviche has to sit for a while!).

But! You’ll be happy to know that it was a wonderful dinner. Highlights included (but were not limited to) cooking with acid (as in, lime juice), the premier of my elephant mugs, Carrie and Amal figuring out how to make a free clear plastic poncho look hot, and general wonderfulness.

And we promise now that people are trickling back into town for their weekends, we’ll be much better at updating.

Without further ado, a four part dinner for your pescatarian friends!

watermelon salad
  • before you start the salad, mix a few glugs of balsamic vinegar (basically as much salad dressing as you need) and a big spoonful of honey. if you are fancy, you can reduce this concoction. if you are tired, you can just give it a bit of time to dissolve, stirring occasionally
  • take one bag of arugula, and put it in a bowl
  • chop about 1/4 of a big seedless watermelon (or half of a small) into bite-sized pieces, and put onto the arugula
  • top with feta cheese and your dressing
  • cut the very bottom of the stems off of a bunch or two of asparagus, and then chop the remaining stems in half (so they fit better and are easier to stir)
  • put into a big flat pan with a little (about an 1/8 inch) water on the bottom, and cook on medium heat, stirring occassionally, until all of the asparagi(??) are bright green
  • turn off the stove and drain the water
  • add a few tabs of butter in the pan with a few spoonfuls of capers and caper juice and the juice of one lemon. to be fancy, serve with lemon slices on top
  • cut about a pound and a quarter of grey sole fillets (or any other white fish) into bite sized pieces and put into a bowl… not too big or they’ll need to “cook” longer
  • cover with fresh lime juice (about 10 limes)
  • add the following, all diced, and stir: half a red pepper, a jalepeno pepper (or two, if you like spicey), a handful of cilantro, about half a small red onion, 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • top off with some salt and pepper, and let sit in the refrigerator covered for at least 3 hours
  • when the fish is done being “cooked”, it looks just like regular fish! white and opaque… if eating alone, it can be eaten on saltines or tostados, on leftover rice and beans or plain
rice and beans
  • for six people, I made about a cup (dry) of rice…. the ration for rice is 1c rice to 2c water
  • in a medium pan, sautee 5-6 cloves of garlic, the other half of your red onion, and some chili pepper
  • once they transparent, add 2 cans of drained black beans
  • toss in 1-2 chopped tomatos and a handful of chopped cilantro and season with salt and pepper, and simmer slowly for as long as possible so all the flavors mix without the beans getting too soupy
  • serve on top of the rice!
blueberry cobbler
  • in a mixing bowl, cover 2 boxes of blueberries with about 1/2 to 3/4 cups of sugar, 3 tablespoons of flour and some sprinkles of allspice and stir until coated. pour into your pie pan
  • mix 1/3 cup of sugar and 1/3 a cup of flour with some more shakes of allspice, then cut in about 6 tablespoons of butter until it looks like chunky bits (not too big, but there shouldn’t be dry mix left behind)
  • sprinkle onto the blueberries and cook at 400 farenheit for about 30 minutes
  • eat! maybe with ice cream?